The Future is Now to Decriminalize Mental Illness


National Initiative Updates

The Future is Now to Decriminalize Mental Illness Former Michigan State Court Administrator and National Initiative Co-chair Milt Mack argues that system changes made as a result of the pandemic show the way to more humane and effective responses to people with mental illness in the future.

Definition of Insanity In case you missed it, here is the link to the Definition of Insanity Documentary of the Miami-Dade County Florida efforts to decriminalize mental illness with Judge Steve Leifman and the amazing professionals who make it happen. It is worth your time to view it in its entirety.

Be Safe, Stay Well and Share this Newsletter and Encourage everyone interested to sign up at the bottom of this Behavioral Health Alert. And please share with us what your Court is doing to address the needs of those with Serious Mental Illness and Co-Occurring disorders during this pandemic—please share your challenges and successes.

Research and Resources

COVID-19 AND INCARCERATION: "What is Happening, What are the Key Questions, What Is to Be Done?” This Saturday, the 18th, a distinguished group of experts, including Equitas National Advisor Terry Kupers, will be presenting at UCLA for a Zoom conference on COVID-19 and Incarceration.  Larry Krasner, the D.A. in Philadelphia, will be the keynote.

Justice Management Institute: Response to COVID-19 by Criminal Justice Systems JMI put together links to resources by practice area and created a quick one-page checklist of things that each justice partner should consider during the COVID-19 pandemic. changing conditions.

Safety and Justice Challenge COVID-19 Town Hall this Town Hall will feature Chuck Ingoglia, President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH). Mr. Ingoglia will provide guidance on HIPAA, CARES Act funding opportunities, COVID-19 specific changes to Medicare/Medicaid, and evolving practices to provide care to persons with behavioral health disorders during this pandemic. He will also discuss practices that can be adopted from the experiences of Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHC’s) and how to bring a CCBHC to your community. Pre-identified MacArthur SJC sites will also highlight their local responses to serving people with behavioral health disorders during this COVID-19 pandemic.

OFFICE OF NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL POLICY COVID-19 FACT SHEET A one-stop list of links to pandemic-related resources at the federal level.

SAMHSA Training and Technical Assistance Related to COVID-19 SAMHSA is committed to providing regular training and technical assistance (TTA) on matters related to the mental and substance use disorder field as they deal with COVID-19. Our TA programs are delivering great resources during this time. View the updated available TTA resources to assist with the current situation.

Webinar: Tracking Participant Progress During COVID-19: What Data to Collect and Why? The Covid-19 pandemic has already had substantial impacts on how treatment courts operate and, on the services participants, receive. Are the changes you have implemented helping your participants? Has stopping some services harmed your participants? How do you know what the impacts are now, and long term? In this time of constant change and scarce resources, data collection and monitoring can help treatment courts keep track of how participants are doing and measure the impact of the changes you’ve made.

CLOUD: Your Source for Curated, Actionable, Evidence-based Resources on Opioids and the Opioid Crisis in the United States. “Welcome to CLOUD, a newly launched, searchable library of curated, evidence-based resources on opioids and the opioid crisis. Our goal is to provide everyone working on this important issue with a centralized source to find actionable, evidence-based resources.”

PsychHub COVID-19 Mental Health Resource Hub “COVID-19 Mental Health Resources Hub” is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the nation’s leading mental health advocacy groups, the largest health care payors, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

First Friday Forum: Public Health x Pretrial Justice The COVID-19 crisis brought the intersection of public health and pretrial justice to the forefront. Join PJI for a conversation with Dr. Tyler Winkelman, internist, pediatrician, and health services researcher Hennepin County, Minnesota, and Dr. Rachel Silva, Medical Director at the Hennepin County Jail, and Sandhya Kajeepeta and Dr. Seth Prins from Columbia University about public health issues and opportunities within pretrial justice. May 1.

New Webinar: Designing a Law Enforcement-Friendly Crisis Service Part 2 of SAMHSA'S GAINS Center's Crisis Response Models Virtual Learning Community. Law enforcement officers are often the first to respond to individuals experiencing mental health crises. In order for crisis services to be utilized by law enforcement as an alternative to the hospital emergency department or jail, it is essential that crisis services have policies and practices that facilitate drop-offs by officers. The webinar will examine the implementation of law enforcement-friendly policies in a crisis care center open to anyone in Tucson (Arizona) and a center in Knox County (Tennessee) built for the justice-involved population in crisis.

Best Practices for Drug Courts: Implementing Effective Programming for People with Methamphetamine Use Disorder With a number of jurisdictions experiencing an increased prevalence of methamphetamine use, some drug courts are implementing treatment and supervision approaches that are responsive to the specific needs of people with methamphetamine use disorder and polysubstance use with methamphetamines and other drugs. This webinar will cover best practices for creating and implementing drug court programming for people using methamphetamines and stimulant drugs and provide key information that drug court professionals need to know when considering which evidence-based practices are the best fit for their program.

SAMHSA's GAINS Center Newsletter—April 2020 What a Substance Use Treatment Center Medical Director Learned from His Recovery, grant award announcements, links to resources, and more.

SJI Funding Toolkit for State Courts and Justice System Partners The toolkit is designed to support local courts, state courts, and their justice system partners as they pursue federal and philanthropic funding opportunities. This toolkit includes resources that encompass the entire grant seeking, writing and management process, such as planning checklists, sample documents, frequently asked questions and fact sheets.  Technical assistance is also available to courts to provide support and feedback during the grant writing and development process.

Submitting SSI/SSDI Appeals Using the SOAR Model: A Toolkit for Case Managers The information provided in this toolkit will introduce you to the basics and also delve deeper for those seasoned in assisting with appeals.

Jail-Based Mentor Site Selection Application The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) is pleased to announce the creation of the Evidence-based Treatment in Custody, Jail-Based Mentor Site Program, expected to launch in September 2020. This program is part of the training and technical assistance (TTA) available for local jurisdictions through BJA’s Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (COSSAP).

A Matched-Samples Comparison of Pre-Arrest and Post-Booking Diversion Programs in Florida’s Second Judicial District Pre-arrest diversion programs have the potential to reform the front-end of the criminal justice system and reduce the stigma associated with a low-level arrest, but little evaluation work has been conducted in this area.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Effectiveness of Public Safety Diversion Programs in Longmont, CO The technical paper entitled "The Effectiveness of Public Safety Diversion Programs in Longmont, CO," evaluates the effectiveness of Longmont Division of Public Safety’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program (LEAD). The number of all legal incidents dropped by around 59 percent following first contact with LEAD and arrests declined by roughly 50 percent.

Getting Started: Essential Measures for Data & Information Sharing across the Sequential Intercept Model Webinar In 2019, SAMHSA released the publication Data across the Sequential Intercept Model: Essential Measures to support jurisdictions interested in using data to better understand and improve the outcomes of people with mental and/or substance use disorders who come into contact with the criminal justice system. This webinar, hosted by SAMHSA's GAINS Center, will provide a deep dive into this publication and ways to apply the information practically.

Sharing the CCI: Solution to Address Homelessness Webinar This webinar hosted by the Center for Court Innovation will provide a national perspective on issues law enforcement professionals face when responding to individuals experiencing homelessness, as well as how courts are stepping up to the challenge and becoming part of the solution.

TAC RESEARCH WEEKLY: Barriers to Access to Long-Acting Injectable Antipsychotic Medications Despite being available for more than 40 years, LAI antipsychotic medications continue to be extremely underutilized by prescribers and patients. The United States significantly lags behind other developed countries in their prescription and utilization.

Trauma - Informed Care Across the Intercepts This slide deck is from a recent webinar put on by the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program.

In the News

New PBS Series Shows How Miami Dade Went From Hellhole To National Model For Helping Persons With Mental Illnesses More than 360,000 individuals with diagnosed mental illnesses are currently in our jails and prisons, and 2.2 million are booked into jails each year. What Judge Leifman has demonstrated and the Ornstein PBS series poignantly documents, is how our communities could dramatically reduce that number and help people recover while saving tax dollars.

Documentary Focuses on Mental Illness, Criminal Justice System Finding ways to combat the mental health crisis in America is a constant struggle. The work of the Miami-Dade Criminal Mental Health Project is making headway in the fight. It is heralded as a model for helping solve the crisis – and it is the focus of the documentary “The Definition of Insanity,” which premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, on New Mexico PBS.

TAC Behavioral Healthcare Recommendations During Covid-19 Following the recent White House conference call on mental health, TAC detailed their priorities in a letter to senior decision makers, encouraging them to focus on the needs of those with severe mental illness.

Supreme Court Majority Effectively Eliminates 700 Years Of Legal Thinking About Insanity Defense By upholding Kansas’ statute and by implication the similar standards contained in the laws of the other four states, the Supreme Court held that it is constitutionally permissible for states to so narrowly define insanity in their statutes as to make it virtually unavailable as an option for criminal defendants.

The Coronavirus Crisis in the Psychiatric Ward Patients, some suicidal, are being discharged early or turned away as the COVID-19 pandemic changes hospital policies across the country.

Patients, Staff at State Hospitals Worry Coronavirus Will Wreak Havoc In California and around the country, public officials and criminal justice advocates have raised urgent concerns about the safety of inmates and staff at jails and prisons, carceral institutions that could be overrun by the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness. But there’s a lesser known set of institutions facing similar, potentially more daunting, challenges: the state mental hospitals.

During the Pandemic, States and Localities Must Decrease the Number of Individuals In Psychiatric Hospitals, By Reducing Admissions and Accelerating Discharges Psychiatric hospitals, like correctional facilities, are potential incubators for the virus. While the danger has been recognized, little information is available about the steps states, localities, and the hospitals themselves are taking to mitigate the danger.

Govt. Waives Restrictions Allowing Psychiatric Wards In Hospitals To Admit Covid-19 Patients The authority to begin housing Covid-19 patients in beds previously reserved for psychiatric patients was authorized on March 30 and announced in a release by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services which authorizes federal payments through the Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP programs.

When the COVID-19 Pandemic is Contained Newly Constructed Beds Should be Retained to Serve the Seriously Mentally Ill. When the COVID-19 pandemic is contained (this might require many months), newly constructed field hospitals and other “extra” COVID-19 beds should be retained to serve the seriously mentally ill.

NASMHPD Breaks Down How the CARES Act $2 Trillion Stimulus Benefits Behavioral Healthcare Within the amount to SAMHSA, $100 million is discretionary spending, which the agency can use to respond to a mental health or substance use emergency. In the update, NASMHPD announced that, along with the American Psychiatric Association, it will pursue having part of the funding go to crisis services.

Fostering Partnerships and Collaborations across the Sequential Intercept Model (SIM) Partnerships and collaboration are considered essential ingredients in establishing an effective continuum of services across the Sequential Intercept Model. SAMHSA’s GAINS Center presents a webinar discussion with practitioners who have established effective partnerships and collaboration across the intercepts to increase services for justice-involved individuals with mental and substance use disorders.

SAMHSA Headlines Your one-stop source for the latest from SAMHSA.

Hawaii Bar Journal Interview with Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald This Q&A with Chief Justice Recktenwald touches several times on behavioral health issues in Hawaii. “I would also like to more effectively address the needs of people in the criminal justice system with mental health issues. In November of last year, the Hawaii State Judiciary and Governor Ige, in partnership with the State Justice Institute, hosted a state-level summit on improving governmental response to community mental illness.” (Westlaw link)

Virus Clouds Prospects for Hawaii's Mental Health Reforms Among the business Hawaii lawmakers left unfinished when they abruptly suspended the Legislature to help slow the spread of the coronavirus were proposals to improve psychiatric care for the state’s mentally ill.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Bridges Gap Between Police and the Community How one city is improving responses to people in crisis with the help of their law enforcement agency and a local nonprofit.

BSU: Community Housing for Chronically Homeless Saves Community $1.3M Idaho’s first permanent supportive housing community for the chronically homeless saved the community over $1 million in its first year of operation, according to a report from Boise State University.

Essential Services Adapt to Social Distancing Voluntary and court-mandated mental and behavioral health treatments will continue despite coronavirus-related closures at the Wahkiakum County Health and Human Services offices. Treatment will be offered through remote communication options except in situations where personal safety is at risk, according to county health officials.

CUT OFF FROM CARE Many Struggle with Mental Illness Amid Isolation, Stigma, Shortage of Help When families are in a mental health crisis without anywhere else to turn, they often call police for help. But law enforcement officers are limited in their ability to assist if a person declines voluntary hospital evaluation. Without a system of support, an already vulnerable population faces criminalization of their disease.

Editorial: Welcome Changes in Mental Health Court The “new normal” has prompted government officials to rethink their standard operating procedures, and it’s paying off in a number of areas, including in our mental health courts. Social distancing measures put into place to deal with Bexar County’s mental health court dockets are working so well, they will likely become permanent after the courthouse fully opens for business.

Mental Health Resources: Who You Gonna Call? It is important to know what resources are available within the Texas legal system.